The Mandvi House by SPASM Design Architects is a vertical power structure that sports a simple stone façade, clutter-free interiors, and an eye-catching timber jaali detail; all these elements come together to establish both cooler climes and substantial privacy for the residents.
The city of Mandvi’s generally brown facade will appear unremarkable at first sight, but it is a place of many hidden treasures and unassuming landmarks. The old Gujarati port city is today promoted as a haven for travellers who love to veer off the beaten track. They come for the beach, the remnants of the fort, and the simple spectacle of a town that seems stuck in a time warp.
SPASM Design Architects, however, was summoned to Mandvi to realise a family home on a 240 sq m site. “Being the birth place and sacred hometown of the family in Kutch, Gujarat, Mandvi holds a special place in the hearts of the clients,” states the design team.
The designers, thus, scoured the neighbourhood, taking in the narrow streets and the homes standing within breathing distance from each other. These areas are arid, with precious little colour breaking the grand brownness of them all. The architectural legacy of Mandvi has centred on high practicality, with just enough detailing or frill added for effect. The façades in the surroundings are plain, and the general aura is weather-beaten, with most of the paint on the sun-baked walls having lost all layers of sheen.
In the low-rise buildings found here, wide terrace spaces and evenly distributed but small windows and balconies work together to balance the heat and light influx. It is, in short, a locality where standing out is just too easy, and just as risky.
Sensitive design demands that modern architecture observe its surroundings and attempt to honour it; upstaging is anathema. SPASM, through its deep understanding of the client’s needs, a research-based approach to design, and a commitment to functional architecture, has succeeded in realising a home that is plush on the inside but respectfully simple on the outside.
The balance between old ideas and new inspirations began with the material use. The team eschewed the traditional use of timber in favour of concrete, further underlining the structure’s unassuming nature. “The body of the building is completely clad in locally procured ‘Khavda’ stone, which has a worn and pitted texture; this feature resonates with the worn building bastions of what used to be a major port in the Gujarat of the yesteryears,” explains the team.
From the outside in, focus has been on introducing a sense of calm solidity, a facet that is complemented by the low-clutter quality of the interiors. White lime plaster adorns the walls and ceilings, while white ‘Bhaswara’ marble, specially sourced from Rajasthan, dominates the flooring. To amplify the verticality of the structure and open up as much space as possible, all storage units have been pushed into the walls. “Thin windows with timber verticals allow light breezes and yet establish privacy, while also restricting sunlight,” adds the team.
Timber has been strategically brought into the scheme in the form of an expansive jaali cover that splits the strong natural light and unleashes a carpet of whimsical shadows across the interiors. This effect takes on magical tints in the stairwell shaft, where the glass surfaces, concrete steps, and the hanging lamps seem to be playing parts in an elaborate shadow themed performance.
All along, the team reiterates the compactness and the introverted nature of the home, and it is a trait one encounters everywhere. This is a home for thinkers, for philosophers, for residents who revel in minimalism.
But even brooding souls seek the occasional escape. This home provides it through a beautiful terrace that is hugged by an open-to-the-sky fence of timber jaali. The tall mullions ensure privacy to the terrace revelers, while affording them plenty of breeze and filtered sunlight.
The Mandvi House is a testament to how restraint in design can achieve functional, elegant structures that harmoniously complement their sites.
They can also look out and soak in the unique sights of the city around. “The house is self-contained and compact at the lower level as a response to Mandvi’s extreme climate while the rooftop has been treated to provide the much needed sense of openness and release,” affirms the team.
In a constricted space, the SPASM designers have introduced little elements of colour, like the bright blue wall that looks across to the stairwell.
The solid structure protects the home against seismic disturbances as well as extreme weather conditions. It is a project that manages to combine multiple facets and make them a remarkable whole. This visual language could indeed help inform the modern re-imagination of old towns across the entire country.
Text By Shruti Nambiar
Photographs Sebastian Zachariah and Ira Gosalia